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International Relations

Asia and Europe unite in support for multilateral order

Noting 'recent developments,' summit suggests unease with Trump's nationalism

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were among the attendees at the summit.    © AP

BRUSSELS -- This week's Asia-Europe Meeting closed Friday with a call for international cooperation as leaders from the two continents unite to push back against President Donald Trump's "America First" policies. 

"Recent international developments have boosted the relevance of ASEM as a building block for effective multilateralism and the rules-based international order anchored in international law and with the United Nations at its core," representatives from 53 countries and organizations said in the chair's concluding statement, without mentioning Trump or the U.S. by name.

The two-day meeting was held in the Belgian capital, headquarters of the European Union, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in among the leaders in attendance.

On trade, leaders stressed their commitment to a multilateral system with the World Trade Organization at the core while also urging reforms of the intergovernmental body. The statement also pledged that participants would "fight all forms of protectionism, including protectionist unilateral measures and unfair trade practices." Language from the previous draft about market interference by governments, which is suggestive of China, was not included.

"It is important to support a multilateral trading system based on free and fair rules as protectionism spreads around the world," Abe said at the meeting.

The statement also touched on nuclear issues related to North Korea and Iran. Representatives adopted milder language on North Korea at South Korea's request, deleting an expression about maintaining pressure and sanctions on the North in the draft version. They also stated that preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of "respecting international agreements and promoting international security." 

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